Television and live stream coverage for the 2013 British Open is plentiful, which is a nice luxury for those who are hoping to catch the action of golf's third major championship of the season.
Ernie Els won the last time the Open was held at Muirfield Golf Links, and he also happens to be defending the Claret Jug, having secured victory at Royal Lytham and St. Annes last year.
It's certainly feasible that The Big Easy could be a big factor in his bid to go back-to-back, because he finished tied for fourth at the U.S. Open and followed that with a win at the BMW International Open.
However, Els will face plenty of competition from this world-class field, and he'll have to improve on his 2013 ranking on the PGA Tour of 127th in scoring average before the cut.
Below is an overview of the TV schedule and live stream information for the opening round on Thursday in Gullane, Scotland, along with some predictions for the first 18 holes.
Note: Statistics are courtesy of PGATour.com and EuropeanTour.com. British Open information was obtained from the official website. Tournament history can be located at the Official World Golf Ranking.
Round 1 Information
When: Thursday, July 18
Where: Muirfield Golf Links in Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland
Tee Times: First group is off at 6:32 a.m. BST (1:32 a.m. ET). For a complete list of tee times for Round 1, visit TheOpen.com.
TV Schedule (h/t ESPN.com)
ESPN, 4 a.m. - 3 p.m. ET
The Open Championship Today: 3-6 p.m. ET
Best of The Open Championship encore presentation: ESPN, 7-10 p.m. ET
Live Stream (h/t Watch ESPN, where all events are available)
|Start Time (ET)||Event|
|2:30 a.m.||The Open LIVE|
|4 a.m.||Live First Round (International View)|
|4 a.m.||Live coverage of Holes 1, 7, 8, 9 and 18|
|3 p.m.||First round encore presentation|
|7 p.m.||Best of The Open Championship encore presentation|
Surprise Dark Horse: Branden Grace
The 25-year-old South African is a rising star, having had a breakout 2012 season in which he won four times on the European Tour.
Similar success hasn't been replicated this season so far, but Grace nearly added a fifth win at the Scottish Open last week, only to lose to the red-hot Phil Mickelson in a playoff.
Grace evidently has a great feel for links golf. On top of his recent encouraging result, his last win came at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which was played at the Old Course at St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns. The former two are on the British Open rotation.
When conditions are ideal, Grace can go extremely low. According to the BBC, Gullane is looking sunny all day on Thursday, which should allow for some better scoring.
Bovada currently lists Grace at 66-1 to win, and there are plenty of worse bets to make. I don't believe Grace will be able to hold up over the course of four days, but with his proven ability to close, he might be a serious contender.
Being the 26th-ranked golfer in the world shouldn't warrant dark-horse status. After Round 1, Grace will be universally recognized as a force to be reckoned with if he plays to his potential.
Top Favorite to Falter: Lee Westwood
It's been a bit of a struggle for the Englishman lately. After five consecutive top 10s, he withdrew from the Memorial Tournament, tied for 15th at the U.S. Open but then came in 74th at the Travelers Championship.
Making that sort of a big adjustment just ahead of his 19th attempt at the Claret Jug isn't necessarily a sign of desperation from Westwood, but it does show he's sporting shaky form heading into Muirfield.
Working through any adjustments in one's swing is the last thing a golfer should want to do on a course like this. If Westwood finds trouble consistently off the tee and is frequently sloshing out of the thick rough, his Open could come unraveled quickly.
Westwood has also brought aboard Ian Baker-Finch, the 1991 Open winner, to help him with his putting, which has frequently been his shortcoming in all his major close-calls.
Westwood needs to win a major, and it would be wonderful to see him do so. In light of this Foley development, though, this week is looking less promising—barring a miraculous, short-term fix that gets Westwood locked in.
Leader: Dustin Johnson
Power hitters don't necessarily have an advantage on Muirfield's shorter course, but Johnson has a knack for links golf and is unique in that he's so strong that he doesn't have to get the ball up high to hit it far.
Johnson's unique length comes in the form of a low, bullet-like ball flight that he is becoming increasingly better at controlling. It also can't be underestimated that he's won in each of his past six seasons on the PGA Tour.
Getting it done with that type of regularity bodes well for the American star, who is putting better than ever and ranks 27th in strokes gained putting.
The big case against Johnson is his inability to find the fairway, but that's more of a byproduct of pulling longer clubs and ripping it. Plus, with how far he hits it, his approaches are frequently going to be short irons.
Playing in the final group alongside 2011 winner Darren Clarke, Johnson knows what it's like to contend. He has finishes of T-14, T-2 and T-9 in his past three appearances in this championship.
Absent much resistance and Johnson's advantage of having shorter clubs in his hands hitting into the greens, he should sit atop the leaderboard after Day 1.